"Governor Abbot is doing the right thing in cleaning up the garbage, human waste and mess in Austin. But we need a P.L.A.N. sir. A more permanent solution."
The epicenter of the homeless issue in America is down south today. Specifically, in Austin, Texas. Yes, this one time bright red state of Texas also has a developing homeless issue. In fact, at last count there were about 2,200 homeless in Austin. The Democrat Mayor of Austin, Steve Adler, has done zero, zip, na-da to fix this problem. So tent cities have popped up under many of the overpasses and on sidewalks. And just like west coast cities, city streets have become garbage dumps and latrines for the homeless.
After numerous warnings to fix this mess, Republican Governor Abbot had enough. This morning before the sun came up, the crews were out in Austin. Removing tents, scrubbing streets, getting rid of trash. What then will happen with the 2,200 homeless? One gent was interviewed this morning. He was taking it all in stride to say the least. "I will just go find another overpass to roost under. Hey - word is out about Austin! People are coming here from all over, just to find a good place to stay."
"A good place to stay" is not meant to me a Hyatt or Holiday Inn. It is meant to be an underpass. In many cities, when no permanent solution for homelessness is found, the city ends up playing a game like "wack a mole". As soon as one homeless camp is taken down, a new one pops up somewhere else. Why? Many of these people have no other place to go. Many are addicted, many have mental health issues, many don't want to live in a shelter. Some are homeless due to all all of the above.
I have mentioned this before. My wife and I have had some experience working with the homeless. Both with homeless teens up in our neck of the woods, and a large mission for the homeless in St. Paul. We have gone through NAMI training, to try and better understand the link between homelessness and mental health. What we have come away with is a stark truth - homelessness in our country is a big problem and getting bigger. The solutions we have come up with have not really been solutions. We need to think bigger and better on this issue.
Some cities are building neighborhoods consisting of nothing but "tiny houses". A tiny house is just that - tiny. Many are less than 500 square feet of living space. But that living space is designed to maximize comfort and security in the smallest of all enclosures. Unlike shelters, they offer the homeless a modicum of dignity, as well as a save place to sleep. These are not designed to be forever homes for the homeless - just a safe place until they can get on their feet once again.
The first training we took on how to work with the homeless, the trainer got right to the point. "If you remember nothing else from this training, remember this. The vast majority of the homeless do not set out to become homeless. It happens either by bad choices or a bad break in life. Many folks today, are one paycheck away from being homeless." And we did remember that. Homelessness is a sigma which does not have to be so. How most cities handle the homeless, especially on the west coast, is worse than shameless.
Governor Abbot is doing the right thing in cleaning up the garbage, human waste and mess in Austin. But we need a P.L.A.N., sir. A more permanent solution. Until cities come up with something concrete and offering a certain amount of dignity to the homeless, this problem will continue to spread. And that, is in no one's interest.